“Our vision is for Edo State to become a leading agricbusiness hub in Nigeria, attracting some of the biggest agric-investors, transitioning the state into a world of Agro-industrialization” – Obaseki
When the Godwin Obaseki led administration during the governorship electioneering campaign promised to create 200,000 jobs, the major opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made it a laughing issues and mock the Obaseki. The party said Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who is projecting Godwin Obaseki was unable to create 10,000 jobs rather he sent people into the labour market, how then will Obaseki create 200,000 jobs?
The opposition party focused on the job issues and try to use it to distract Obaseki and his campaign team, but he never relented rather he continued to reiterate his determination not only to create 200,000 job but to make the state an economic hub of the nation as well as surpassing the achievement and record of the Comrade Governor.
As they made mockery on the job promises, governor Obasek was busy planning, strategizing and using his connection in the private sector to gather would be investors. As soon as the elections were over and he became the governor of the state, he hits the ground running as he made one giant stride travelling to China to woo investors.
His critics were not too comfortable as they felt his travelling to China is another way of wasting tax payers’ money but the more the opposition made noise to distract the governor, the more he set machinery in place to actualize his promise to his people and shame his critics whose business in government is to loot the treasury of the state.
Unlike the politicians who makes political promises and statement just to win election, Obaseki is a different breed who have an economic mind to run the state and was ready to prove his critics wrong by deviating from the usual political way of doing things to a new way where you make promises and you are sure to fulfill them.
Obaseki is not a politician, but an economist and a technocrat from the private sector who is ready to bring his wealth of experience to bare in the public sector. Obaseki is ready to teach his detractors how to govern and utilize government resources to favour the masses rather than feeding political fathers or party leaders who had nothing to contribute to the development of the state. There is no more free lunch in government house neither is there any avenue to share government money rather the citizens should be ready to work to turn the fortune of the state around from agriculture as the Obaseki era is for industrialization.
The major crops in the state include cassava, cocoa, rubber, rice/plantain, maize/yam and citrus/pineapple. Available statistics shows that the state is the second largest producer of rubber, second largest producer of oil palm, sixth largest producer of cocoa, ninth largest producer of rice and the fifteen largest producer of cassava.
Edo state enjoys favorable climate condition as the state is located around the tropical region of Nigeria. It has two distinct climate seasons; the rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season is between April and October with a two-week break in August. Average rainfall is between 150cm in the far North of the state to 250cm in the South. The dry season lasts from November to April, with a cold, humid and dusty harmattan period between December and January. The average temperature ranges between 25◦ C in the rainy season and 28◦C in the dry season. Generally, the climate is humid tropical in the Southern areas of the state and sub humid in the North.
The state has the potential to be an export of Agricultural products because she has most versatile soil (sandy loam) able to support cultivation of wide variety of crops and livestock; good climate condition; cultivable land (1.1 million hectares) and the state has friendly policy direction towards agricultural investors ready to do business in the state.
The aim of the present administration led by Mr. Godwin Obaseki is to revolutionize the agricultural sector in the state; to address food security; employment generation; wealth creation and industrialization.
Increase food availability will be one of the benefits of Agricultural investors in the state considering the caliber of investors the state has been able to attract, the land to be utilized, general agricultural activities, there is no doubt that food availability is totally obtainable within a short period of time, to ensuring Edo State becomes the food basket of the nation.
Secondly, it will generate employment despite the numerous challenges caused by unemployment world over. To fight this scourge, the Obaseki led administration is committed towards tackling this challenge by introducing the investors-friendly policy direction. This development can in turn yield over 100,000 jobs in the state, affecting all classes and age group(s) of the state as companies start from cultivation to packing of products.
Thirdly, the level of poverty in the state will drastically reduce. There is no magic to poverty eradication, once there is an enabling environment to thrive, investors to invest, job creation follows suit and poverty is reduced/eradicated. In the light of this development, job creation would undoubtedly lead to economic growth.
The state government in the last seven years has ensured road construction in the rural areas to the urban cities to ensure easy passage of foods and services within and outside the state. This will in turn be a starting point for investors to build upon as the process will equally increase the state government revenue from taxation.
Activating his action plan of making Edo State the economic hub of the nation through investment in the Agricultural sector taking our strategic position, fertile soil, almost 2 million hectares of harable land spanning several vegetation, energetic manpower, Obaseki set up an ad-hoc Agricultural Committee headed by Chief Osaro Ideh.
He said the major focus of the Committee is on four items which include creation of 5,000 hectares for the cultivation of maize; 10 hectares of green house of vegetables and tomatoes; 4,000 hectares of piggery farms and also government supporting cocoa farmers to improve their yields for this season which is hoped to achieve and should create between 50,000 and 80,000 jobs this year 2017.
The governor said the need for this Committee at this point in time is that the administration is racing against time and wants the Committee to help the government think through and identify some specific projects which the administration must begin to identified immediately and also begin some agricultural activities before the next cropping season. “We have just three months of dry season left to undertake all the preparations required before the raining season comes in”.
“If we went through the normal process of government, we may have to wait till the cabinet is constituted and if that is the case, we will miss the cropping season. I want to congratulate you on this appointment. At some point later in the life of the administration, we would constitute a full team to look holistically at all our Agricultural initiative”.
In other not to miss the cropping season, governor Obaseki was able to muscle over 87Agricultural entrepreneurs in various field of Agriculture across the world to Benin City Edo State for a three day workshop to deliberate and kick start the process of Agricbusiness in the state.
The venue; Randehki Royal Hotel in Benin City, Edo State Capital. Theme: “Harnessing Resources and opportunities to optimize Agribusiness”. Under the distinguished chairmanship of Mr. Tony Ogunbor. Agric entrepreneurs came from across the globe to cross fertilize ideas on how to make the state an economic hub of the nation in line with the Godwin Obaseki’s administration creating job through agriculture. The deliberation commenced on Thursday 26th through 28th of January 2016.
A glance at the activities and programmes for the event shows how sucessful the workshop will be as entrepreneur will have the opportunity to engage themselves for the three days they will spend together at Rankhiki Royal Hotel under the watchful eyes of the government of Edo state showing how ready they are to turn mare political statement to action and fulfilled the promises made to the people of the state.
Welcoming participant to the workshop, the chairman Mr. Tony Ogunbor said the inaugural Edo State Agricbusiness workshop has brought participants from both within and outside the country to deliberate putting years of experience together, cross fertilize ideas, turning the outcome into government policies to move the state forward through agriculture.
Ogunbor who linked the successes of development in Lagos State to the experience Babatunde Fashola brought in from the private sector to transform the public sector said the state is a model to emulate and a trend state should start adopting for economic growth. He said he has no doubt in his mind that Edo State will soon be like Lagos, as Obaseki has brought his wealth of experienced that is spanning over 30 years to bare in the state and surly the state will be better for it. “There will certainly be a great difference when you put the managerial skills acquired in the private into the public sectors”.
The chairman commended the Godwin Obaseki led administration for departing from the political way of doing things, organizing a workshop of this magnitude which outcome will transform the state into an Agro-industrialization state. He said instead of lamenting or complaining, the governor has hit the ground running. “This is not the time to dive into missed opportunities but harness the agricultural potentials of the state to return the state back to its pride of place amongst states in the nation. In time past Edo state was in the fore front of production in oil palm, rubber and cassava but today all that are in the past but thank the governor for setting machinery in place to return Edo State back to reckoning in the nation”. He said if we develop the agric sector it will lead to industrialization.
Ogunbor said despite the fertile soil in the state, oil has made us to lose focus and the ability to think progressively but commended the governor for putting a programme of this nature in place as it will change our orientation and put us back on track to think progressively to develop the state through agriculture.
Allaying the fears of investors, Ogunbor express delight in the bold and decisive step taken by the governor to criminalize the activities of Community Development Association (CDA) whose activities has scare potential investors out of the state. “We thank the governor for setting out to criminalize the activities of the CDA through enacting a bill that will enable violators to be punished. The move is commendable and very inimical to investors and the development of the state. Edo state can become the food basket of the nation if agric is the centers focus. Agriculture will help grow the internally generated revenue of the state. I want to assure the governor that all the investors here are ready for business to help the government actualize the dreams”.
Chairman of the Strategic Planning Unit of Godwin Obaseki led administration Prof. Julius Ihonvbere commended the government of Edo state for the Agricbusiness initiative which he said will increase food production, input to the industrial sector, earn revenue and foreign exchange for the State and create jobs for the teeming youths of the state.
He said Agric is one of the sure sectors to create job. This is why we have called the investors as a financier to Edo; some came from Europe and America. He said the goal of the administration is to identify those who are ready to help, to begin work immediately and them to enjoy the new incentives which the governor is unveiling. “For the first time in Edo, we are computerizing the C of O issuance and making it faster and ready to provide support and work on security for farmers. We are prepared to work with communities to create a conducive atmosphere for farmers. It is a total package that the governor is unveiling to encourage investment and increase output. We have community and local government donating land to the state. So far we have over 250,000 hectars already donated voluntarily which will be made available to farmers so that there will not be excuse of land”.
An Agric Entrepreneur Willma Aguele expresses delight in the step taken by Obaseki to develop the state through agriculture. “I am very happy to be here and very pleased that Edo State Government and its team are going forward to try to take Edo State out of poverty. We are happy to be part of it. We are always conscious of the fact that economic matter void of politics but I am glad that we have a state governor that is driving the process of taken Edo state to the next level”.
Another Agric Investor Mr. Julius Akanoba Managing Director of PEMO Farms Limited expressed delight for the step taken by the government to empower the people and develop the state through Agriculture. He said education is necessary for farmers as it will go a long way to improve productivity. “We need to educate the farmers and associate with them as there is nothing anybody can do without education in Agriculture. Agriculture today is no longer a way of life unlike in good old days when farmers farm for only their families but today, they farm for the nation”.
He said several topics have been handled here in this 3 day workshop as the resolution will be pass to the relevant authorities which has the power to translate the resolution into government policies.
An indigene of Edo State who is also an entrepreneur Captain Hosa Okunbor thank the Godwin Obaseki’s administration for setting the platform through which Edo state will become developed. “Obaseki has started in a right way and the right way to go is Agriculture. Our state is well position in Nigeria, we have the land, if all worked out as planned, in two years to come we will become the Agricultural hub of the nation”.
He commended Obaseki for showing the determination, zeal and commitment to move Edo State forward. “his passion for developing Edo State is never in doubt non questionable as the entire citizens are very hopeful and expect to see changes soonest “.
Hosa said the governor has an Economic mind to run the state and this is what is required to drive the process of developing the state, bringing it back to its lost glory to the envy of other state.
Delivering a key note address at the workshop, the Chief of Staff to Edo State Government Mr. Taiwo Akerele thank participant in the Agricbusiness for desiring to join the government of the state to develop it through Agriculture. He said the government is ready to invest in the Agricultural sectors to create job for the people of the state saying that the government is ready for the business of developing the state.
Akerele said the government is ready to create an enabling environment for investor to come into the state to invest without fear of being harassed as the Obaseki’s administration has put modalities on ground engaging with communities that have crises with investors encouraging such communities to ensure they create the enabling environment and atmosphere for business to thrive in the state.
“Edo state is an investment friendly state and the governor is investment friendly. He is set to position Edo on the part of progress as he assured the people that in 3 years Edo will be made one of the biggest competing state in the area of Agricbusniess with Lagos or Ogun State”.
He urged the participants to take the workshop seriously as the Agricbusiness in the state is for serious investors that will join hands with the government of the state to develop the state. He wishes the participant a fruitful deliberation.
Governor Obaseki who was physically present at the event was elated, his face beaming with smiles like a fulfilled general who just returned from a victorious battle, he expressed delight on the caliber of investors who hounoured the invitation of his government to be part of the Agricbusiness workshop to contribute their wealth of experience in moving Edo state forward.
Obaseki said if we are going to be leaders in our region in terms of Agribusiness as we seek to be, we must question old ways of doing things and seek fresh ideas to face our current challenges. “We must continue to encourage small farm holders to improve farming practices and obtain modern technology; we must implement the policy of mechanization and commercialization using technology”.
“Today Edo State is the second largest producer of rubber, second largest producer of oil palm, sixth largest producer of cocoa, ninth largest producer of rice and fifteen largest producer of cassava. Our mission is to become the largest producers of these crops within the next five years”.
Obaseki said to achieve this set goals we must do things differently. “As we seek to achieve this goal, there is no better time to rethink and reposition the economy of our state. The old habit of depending on excessive federal revenue must now give way to a robust private sector driven local economy that is anchor on a solid foundation of Agricbusiness”.
He said subsistent farming of the old must now be replace with modern method as input gear towards meeting market demand and making profit for both the rural farmers and out growers on a large commercial farm.
“The aging farming population must now be replaced with a new breed of innovative young and energetic farmer. We are here for action not lamentation. We are here with those who have the experience and those who are in the sector. We want knowledge driven solution, I am here today not to talk but to act and act decisively”. In doing this the governor said the strategy of the government is to provide land, make it accessible, drive agriculture from top to bottom, attract and partner with those with large capital and commercial farms because they have the capacity, capital and the knowledge to drive the business”.
Continuing he said at the end of the 3 day workshop, the state will commission an Agricultural plan to deal with all the agricultural issues hindering the state from economy developing. He said the solution of the issues facing the agricultural sectors came from the presentation of discussant during the discussion sections where investors cross fertilize their idea and experience.
“The solution came from the last presentation which is that we do not have an Agricultural master plan whether at the Federal or state level. All the issues we have been discussing here today would have been dealt with through the plan frame work”.
Governor Obaseki said the take away for him is that immediately after this section; Edo State must commission an agric master plan. “Once the Agric master plan is in place, we now begin to tackle core issues like land, were we talked about ownership and control. It is something we’ve been struggling with, that is why we invited party chairmen at local government areas to come”.
Speaking further, the governor said after setting up the Ad-hoc Committee to look at the possibility of participating in this season using the advantages of the raining season, words were sent to local government council and communities to donate land for the course as priority will be given to those who donated in our investment. “Within a week, we had received offers of almost 250,000 hectares of land. It shows that working with the communities and ministry of land we can actually create a sensible land bank”.
Furthermore, he said the issue of ownership or control is something the government know and can be dealt with as she understands what the issues are. “Part of the change is the land use act and the way it’s been implemented is the part of the experience and on how to structure transactions in spite of limitations of that law. The issue of infrastructure is an interesting one because we don’t have a master”.
At the end of the three day workshop the investors which were divided into groups came to government to discuss with the governor on the way for the state. Each of the groups tabled their discussions, the challenges they face, what they need to thrive in the state, the assistance the state should render, the numbers of people they can employ, how ready they are to invest in the state and the likes.
The agricbusiness has come and gone, expert in various line of agricultural business has shared their ideas on how to develop the state using their own line of business. The stage is set, the die is cast, the investors are ready, the government is ready, the result is what the people of the state is anxiously waiting to see and it is sure Edo State is set for development and development the people will see as Godwin Obaseki led administration will not fail in his campaign promises.